Though his dishes once occupied the white-linen tablecloths of Philadelphia’s finest restaurants, Chef Gerald Dougherty now prefers making napkins messy with his signature recipes of rich, meaty barbecue fare. The former head chef of L'Aigla D'Or and Founders at the Bellevue, Chef Gerald currently oversees the pit at Little Louie's BBQ, a casual eatery he opened to satisfy his hankering for down-home grub. Not one to color within the lines, he draws on barbecue styles from across the country—think North Carolina, Kansas City, and Memphis—and smokes his meats over cherrywood, applewood, and hickory chips.
Little Louie’s dining room betrays the same down-home inspirations as its menu. Rustic lumber lines the countertops, and light fixtures reminiscent of branches illuminate the expansive space. If they can peel their eyes away from the beef brisket and pulled pork on their plates, guests will notice Butch Cassidy and Lone Ranger posters hanging from the walls, classic Western movies playing on the 70-inch flat-screen television, and outlaws discreetly taking down Wanted signs that bear their uncanny resemblances.
Tall stalks of bamboo flank Woksabi’s front doors, welcoming patrons into a modern space with exposed brick, dark wood, and accent lights that radiate hues of marigold and cobalt blue. Sleek tables support sizzling parades of lobster, filet mignon, shrimp, salmon, and veggies, kissed by the flames of a hibachi grill or drizzled in teriyaki sauce. In addition to searing hibachi dinners and piling plates with noodle favorites such as spicy pad thai, chefs impress diners seated at the sushi bar by slicing and wrapping fresh ingredients into rolls that range from the common california roll to the Perfect Match, a sweet and salty creation named in reference to Captain and Tennille.
Voted the Best Coffee Shop by Philadelphia Magazine, The Treehouse Coffee Shop has grown a loyal following with its comfy atmosphere and exquisite coffee made with beans purportedly grown on the roof. Caffeine cravers can choose from the shop's eclectic selection of java, including the dark Indonesian-grown Sumatra blend, roasted by the regional Crescent Moon Coffee Company. Aside from a potent cup of coffee ($1.45–$2.25), the rest of the menu features stress-quelling teas ($1.30–$1.60), frozen mochas ($4.05–$4.55) from the espresso bar, and scrumptious sandwiches such as the focaccia-bread chicken panini ($7). The Treehouse Coffee Shop completes its community-friendly image with open mic nights on Wednesday and traditional Irish music on Thursdays—a pleasant departure from typical coffee house entertainment such as yelling men and magazines without pictures.
El Sitio's chefs parade a vibrant menu of dishes from Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina across visiting palates. The lomo manchego, a grass-fed sirloin medallion stuffed and drizzled with manchego cheese ($26), is served on a stone plate designed to maintain warmth long enough for forks to tap out blissful sonnets in Morse code. Patrons can lick their plates clean after romping through staple dishes such as the sliced octopus covered in black-olive sauce ($9.25) or a sampler of empanadas, tequeños, and calamari ($11.50). Dine indoors beneath lime-green and marigold walls bathed in varietal lighting, or let the wind blow through your eyelashes while noshing on shrimp in an ivory mantle of coconut sauce ($17) on the patio. El Sitio's BYOB policy allows diners to bring along a bottle of wine, six-pack of beer, or bedazzled personal juicer.
Chef Nunzio bakes, fries, and sautés his Italian upbringing into every item on the classically influenced menu. A thick ragu simmers atop braised and shredded rabbit in the pappardelle al coniglio ($14.25), while the gamberoni al limone e capperi ($14.25) commingles lemon-sautéed shrimp, capers, diced tomatoes, and linguine into a dish as daringly tasty as a Go-Gurt consumed on a motorcycle. Dive into the deep flavors of the insalata di polipo alla griglia ($12.50), a bed of baby arugula and veggies blanketed with marinated and grilled Spanish octopus. Chefs also pepper the menu with classic favorites such as parmigianas, homemade meatballs, and clues to da Vinci's secret mustard recipe.
Indian cuisine made with seasonal ingredients and an American flair.
When to Go: Swing by on a Thursday night if you fancy live sitar and tabla music, but go any other night if you prefer humming your own tunes while you chew.
Inside Tip: The restaurant is BYOB, so pick up your favorite bottle of wine or six-pack of beer before dinner.
Chaat: savory Indian snack food made of potatoes, fried bread, and a spice medley that typically includes dried mango powder, cumin seeds, and black salt.
Paneer: a fresh cheese made from boiling cow's milk or water buffalo's milk and curdling it with whey—the dish dates back to at least 6,000 BC.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Test your crafting skills at All Fired Up (602 Haddon Avenue), a studio devoted to paint-your-own pottery.
After: See what's happening at the Scottish Rite Auditorium (315 White Horse Pike), a historic 1930s venue that hosts musical acts and theater performances.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: If you're in Philly for the evening, head to Indeblue's sister location (205 S. 13th Street).